12-30-18 “Is Born”
(This message is adapted from the work of Marcia McFee and the Worship Design Studio)
The scripture reading for today implores us to understand that the overarching story continues beyond the nativity. Even though we feel as if the Christmas "season" is over (it actually has only just begun) and the tree is quick to come down, the real story begins again in the renewal of our very souls as God nudges us toward new life and new possibilities in a new year.
What is being born within us?
In reading this passage from Revelation for this last Sunday in our series, I wanted to connect our journey into the birth of peace, joy, love, and hope in the presence of Jesus Christ with the vision of the new heaven and new earth being birthed in us for the new year.
All along in our series, the children’s worship scripts focused on a crying baby and how we are called to be those who soothe and calm that baby.
Now we jump right into that metaphor to understand that our own birthing, or rebirthing, might come with some crying. In one of my favorite movies, Under the Tuscan Sun, we hear this line:
“In Italian, ‘to give birth,’ ‘dare a la luce,’ (pronounced DAH-ray ah lah LOO-chay), means ‘to give way to the light.” Indeed, those Italians are incredibly poetic to describe the baby bursting into the world as “giving way to the light.” The baby comes out of the dark warmth of the womb into the light of the world and what does it do? It cries!
Jesus tells his disciples that they must be born again... they must be made new. This, like the Revelation text is in alignment with ancient wisdom and teachings. The prophet Isaiah (where we started this Advent/Christmas journey) proclaims a new heaven and earth in chapter 65. Paul says to the Corinthians in the fifth chapter of his second letter to them that “everything has become new.” It is in John’s Gospel that Jesus tells Nicodemus that he must be born anew. But what does it mean to be born anew? While many mainline denominations steer away from the stereotypical translations of being “born again,” we can find some powerful insight as we consider what happens as we hit the light of a new day.
What will we do when, like a child first emerging from the darkness of the womb, we encounter the light of new life in Christ?
Some babies have to be encouraged to cry. They need to fill their lungs with air to survive and so they need, “encouragement,” if you will, in the form of a swat on their behind. Sometimes life gives us a swat, or a “wake up call,” and we realize that we are barely breathing. New life invites us to new gulps of breath. “Spirare,” the Greek root of the words “spirit,” “breath,” and “inspire,” is essential if we are to live to full capacity.
Some babies need to have their eyes cleared so they can open them and see. What might we be hiding from, needing to “take the wool out from over our eyes” and face the things we need to change in order to grow into what and who God created us to be? How are we insulated from the light through denial or dread, by fear, by anger, by hate? God’s presence and strength are with us; it is time to step into that “glorious” light-filled existence with confidence.
And perhaps if we come through the present darkness, take a big breath, open our eyes to see, have a good cry to find our voice in this world, the silence that follows is not just calm and settled silence, it is anticipatory silence like breath held in expectation. What will the next sound be? How will we fill the silence? What will we say? How will we now be the ones, made in the image of the Light of Life and following in the footsteps of the One whose Star shone on humankind, how will we bring “peace on earth, goodwill to ALL creation,” so that a new heaven comes to this new earth?
It is no coincidence that the new year in the Christian calendar begins, not on January 1st, but with the first Sunday in Advent. Advent, in a way, becomes the gestation period for our own rebirth.
It is in that season that we are invited to shed those things which hold us in darkness and begin to renew and refresh our lives in the anticipation and the light of the birth of Jesus Christ. It is only when we’ve had the chance to step back, reconsider Christ’s birth in light of our own rebirth, renewal, and rejuvenation, that we are ready to move from Christmas to the Epiphany - the celebration of Christ’s light in the world.
So today as the Chancel Choir brings the music of the season, let it flow through you, over you, and around you, that these songs might shine a light for you, not only on the reason of the season, but for the gift of birth and rebirth that is given to us in this season.
“Silent Night, Holy Night,” ends with the words,
“Christ the Savior is Born.”
May he born in you, and may you be born anew in him. That, my friends, is the Glory of Christmas! Amen.